Bone broth. The heated, briny drink, has gained fame in recent years due to its numerous touted health claims to enhance immunity, aid in digestion, detoxify the liver, and alleviate arthritis.
But is this popular trend all that it’s cracked up to be? In this article, you will discover how bone broth is created, its purported health benefits, and any potentially harmful effects it may possess. Read on to find out if you should be adding bone broth to your regular eating regimen.
What Is Bone Broth?
Bone broth has been around for centuries and there are numerous versions of the golden liquid across the world. In the 12th century, bone broth was referred to as “Jewish penicillin” when physician Maimonides stated it was an exceptional food as well as medicine.
Many Asian cuisines have variations of “Long Life Broth,” which is a fusion of entire birds and fresh or dehydrated shellfish, with bones, feet, and shells. In the Caribbean, it is known as “cow foot soup,” which is abundant in collagen and is consumed as a fortifying breakfast or for various ailments. In Korea, they have seolleongtang, and in Japan, tonkotsu, which are dense and creamy broths with fat and myoglobin from bone marrow.
In the U.S., bone broth is generally created from roasted bones—sometimes with the meat attached—and vegetables. It’s usually cooked for more than 24 hours, then strained and seasoned. Bone broth is actually a combination of a broth and a stock.
For comparison, broth is made by simmering vegetables, meat, herbs, and spices in liquid and may include bones. It’s typically cooked between 45 minutes to two hours and then strained and seasoned. Meanwhile, stock is made when vegetables (usually carrots, onions, and celery) are simmered with animal bones (like chicken, beef, or fish), sometimes with meat. It is cooked between four to six hours, then strained.
Many individuals believe it is the prolonged cooking method of bone broth that enhances the health benefits—especially because that is when collagen, amino acids, and minerals are extracted into the liquid.
Nutritional Composition of Bone Broth
Bone broth recipes can vary, which means the nutritional composition can differ between homemade and store-bought versions. The USDA Nutrient Database does not have information for bone broth, perhaps as it is quite challenging to determine the exact numbers based on the recipe variations. However, food companies do provide bone broth nutrition facts on their packages.
- One cup of Swanson’s Chicken Bone Broth supplies 35 calories, 8 grams protein,and 0 grams fat. It is made with organic chicken bones, vegetables, and seasonings. This bone broth is a nutritious option for those looking for a low-fat and high-protein drink. It is also a good source of collagen, which is beneficial for joint health. Enjoy it as a warm and comforting beverage or use it as a base for soups, stews, and sauces.
- A single cup of Pacific Foods Organic Salted Chicken Bone Broth offers 40 calories, 9 grams of protein, and zero grams of fat. This nourishing broth is crafted using organic chicken bones, vegetables, and seasonings. It is an excellent choice for individuals seeking a low-fat and high-protein refreshment. Moreover, it serves as a rich source of collagen, which promotes the well-being of your joints. Savor this delightful beverage to experience warmth and solace or employ it as a foundation for your flavorful soups, stews, and sauces.
- Savor it warm: The most straightforward method is to warm up the bone broth on the stovetop and sip the liquid. It provides a warm and comforting beverage that you can enjoy in the morning on an empty stomach, before bed, or at any time during the day.
- Utilize it for cooking grains: Instead of using water or conventional broth, use bone broth to cook your rice or quinoa, and simmer as usual.
- Include it in vegetable dishes: Substitute water or milk with bone broth when preparing mashed vegetable dishes, such as mashed potatoes or pureed sweet potatoes.
- Kettle & Fire: Offers a variety of bone broths, including beef, chicken, mushroom chicken, and turmeric ginger chicken.
- Pacific Foods: Produces organic chicken bone broth and organic beef bone broth.
- Vital Protein: Markets a powdered form of bone broth collagen.
- Klean Collagen C: A powdered supplement crafted from bovine hydrolyzed collagen. Available in unflavored, berry, and natural tropical options.
- 1 whole chicken, divided into quarters
- 2 tbsp canola or olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 small carrots, diced
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 6 green onions, diced
- 3 bay leaves
- 5 sprigs of thyme
- 1.5-inch ginger root, grated
- 1.5-inch turmeric root, grated
- 8 peppercorns
- 2 tbsp champagne vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 4 cups water
- 3 scoops KLEAN Collagen C, unflavored
May Enhance Digestive Health
In relation to digestive health, studies indicate that glutamine plays a role in intestinal well-being, including supporting the maintenance of the gut barrier function and preventing intestinal permeability. However, the overall evidence is feeble to support the claim that bone broth is beneficial for health. Bonci suggests that it is more conjecture than evidence at this stage. Moreover, numerous questions remain, including the efficiency of collagen absorption, metabolism, and utilization by the body.
May Enhance Immune Health
Bone broth can be a potent potion when it comes to strengthening the immune system. In fact, glutamine is consumed by activated immune cells. As stated by Melissa Mitri, MS, RD, a nutrition writer and proprietor of Melissa Mitri Nutrition, “Due to its high nutritional content, bone broth possesses anti-inflammatory properties that may assist in reducing inflammation within the body.”
Meanwhile, Bazilian explains that bone broth has been extensively used in Traditional Medicine with a lengthy record of its usage and indications. “Gelatin, present in bone broth, possesses some anti-infection and anti-inflammatory properties.”
Furthermore, zinc and other nutrients discovered in bone broth are linked to strengthened immunity, and high-quality sources of protein aid in preserving muscle tissue, forming enzymes and hormones, and supporting the development of essential cells for a healthy immune system.
Additionally, maintaining proper hydration is crucial for maintaining optimal immune system function, adds Bazilian. “The role of hydration in decreasing the risk of chronic diseases has garnered increasing attention in recent decades.” Bone broth can help fulfill your daily fluid requirements.
Studies have long shown that fluids facilitate the transport of nutrients to our cells for energy, growth, and proper functioning, while also removing metabolic waste and harmful substances. Bone broth is a prime example of a fluid that can aid in hydration, as noted by Bazilian.
May Support Joint Health
When it comes to joint health, there is some research supporting its benefits, particularly in relation to collagen, according to Mitri. “Bone broth is abundant in amino acids and proteins like collagen, which can help safeguard your joints, prevent injuries, and promote skin health.”
Moreover, collagen has been extensively studied for its effects on osteoarthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation, the quality of research varies, but there are more positive findings.
However, numerous investigations have been conducted with supplements and not particularly bone broth. A examination of 41 investigations, comprising of 25 clinical trials, discovered that collagen yielded advantages for osteoarthritis and contributed to the mending of cartilage, regardless of the dosage, classification, or brand of collagen.
May Impact Skin Health
Consuming bone broth for the sake of skin health has undoubtedly garnered attention, particularly due to its collagen content. As stated by the Harvard School of Public Health, certain randomized control trials have indicated that supplements containing collagen can enhance the elasticity of the skin. However, there is a lack of research demonstrating that the intake of collagen (via bone broth, for example) directly benefits the health of the skin or joints. This is because, when collagen is digested in the stomach, it breaks down into amino acids, which are then transported to areas of the body where protein is most needed.
Considerations and Limitations
Bone broth contributes nutrients and is a part of a nutritious and well-balanced diet, enhances the flavor profile of dishes, and keeps you hydrated. Additionally, Bazilian highlights that it is gentle on digestion as it is easy to consume and break down. Furthermore, when utilizing bone broth to make soup, the broth is devoid of saturated fat and has relatively few calories per cup compared to soups made with heavy cream or excessive amounts of cheese.
However, there are several drawbacks to consider when determining if bone broth is suitable for you. As illustrated above, the scientific evidence is not strongly supportive of the idea that consuming bone broth can assist with various health conditions. Additionally, according to Bonci, bone broth is costly, lacks vegetables (thus lacking fiber), and is not a significant source of protein.
Keep in mind that collagen is not a high-quality or complete protein. Bonci adds, “If an individual aims to optimize their protein intake, bone broth will not suffice.”
Furthermore, Mitri highlights that certain studies indicate that bone broth might contain high levels of heavy metals, such as lead, although the research on this matter is conflicting. Additionally, when it comes to weight management, some weight loss programs suggest substituting a meal with bone broth. However, Mitri cautions that this approach is overly restrictive and does not endorse it for her clients.
If you choose to prepare your own bone broth at home, ensure that you adhere to proper food safety guidelines for cooking, cooling, and storing the broth, considering that it is simmered over low heat for an extended period of time. Consequently, there is an increased risk of contamination and the growth of harmful microorganisms, which can cause illness. If you opt for store-bought bone broth, follow the storage instructions provided on the product label.
Incorporating Bone Broth Into Your Diet
If you decide to incorporate bone broth into your regular eating regimen, there are several ways to do so. Mitri suggests the following options:
Alternative methods to incorporate bone broth into your well-balanced diet involve utilizing it in soups and stews. Bonci suggests enhancing the nutritional value of bone broth by incorporating chicken pieces, vegetables, and even rice or pasta to create a holistic one-pot soup. Additionally, you can substitute bone broth in recipes that typically call for regular broth or stock in stews or sauces.
Popular Bone Broths Recommended by Dietitians
If you are interested in purchasing store-bought bone broths, dietitians suggest the following products. However, it is important to read the labels to confirm that they align with your dietary objectives, especially when considering sodium content.
Alternative Choices for Individuals on a Non-Meat Diet
For those who adhere to a vegetarian or vegan eating plan, consuming bone broth derived from meat or poultry is not feasible. Nevertheless, there are bone broths made from fish bones and shells that accommodate vegetarians.
Mitri also proposes vegan bone broths, primarily composed of seaweed and mushrooms, with additional ingredients such as onions, herbs, and spices. It is important to note, though, that vegan bone broth lacks collagen (as collagen solely derives from animals), but it does contain nutrients like vitamin C, which play a role in promoting collagen production within the body.
Several brands offering vegetarian or vegan-friendly bone broth alternatives include:
How to Prepare Your Own Bone Broth
You can also create your own bone broth in the comfort of your home. Chrissy Carroll, RD and owner of Snacking in Sneakers, provides a recipe for Slow Cooker Beef Bone Broth that utilizes a slow cooker. Additionally, we have provided two additional recipes for homemade bone broth below.
Klean Collagen C Bone Broth
- Sear chicken pieces in oil for approximately 10 to 15 minutes over medium heat. Take the meat off the bone and set aside if not fully cooked, continue cooking until no longer pink, and save for later. Place the bones in a large pot with the vegetables, herbs, spices, broth, water, and vinegar. Bring to a boil and then let it simmer for two hours, with the lid on but slightly tilted to let the steam escape.
- After two hours, strain the mixture using a sieve or cheesecloth. Discard the vegetables and bones. Add the collagen powder to the stock. Refrigerate for at least four hours and remove any excess fat.
- The recipe produces six cups.
Recipe courtesy of Leslie Bonci
Bazilian’s Chicken, Turkey, Beef, or Fish Bone Broth
- 3-4 pounds of chicken bones and parts (or 1 whole free-range chicken*, cut into pieces) OR 4-6 pounds of beef bones (marrow, knuckle, food, rib, neck) OR 3-4 whole fish^ with bones or carcass (like branzino Italian snapper, sole, or rockfish)
- 3 carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
- 3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 large 1″x1″ knobs of fresh ginger cut into large pieces
- 4-6 cloves of garlic, peeled and quartered
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- Approximately 4 quarts water (enough to cover all the ingredients)
- 1 handful of fresh thyme sprigs, tied together with cooking twine
- 1 pinch sea salt
- Black pepper, freshly ground (according to your taste)
- One small bunch of Italian, flat-leaf parsley added in the last hour.
- In an extra-large crockpot, add the ingredients and fill with water until everything is submerged. Set on high for 1 hour. Remove any liquid/foamy residue that rises to the surface.
- Simmer on low for 12-24 hours (15-18 hours is generally recommended).
- You can add more water if it evaporates, just enough to cover the ingredients.
- Remove the bones and strain the broth using a fine mesh colander. The vegetables can be pureed and used in a soup if desired.
- Place in the refrigerator and, once chilled, skim off the top layer of solidified fat.
- Reheat and enjoy as it is or incorporate into other recipes.
Recipe courtesy of Wendy Bazilian
For those with food allergies, it is important to note that bone broth contains several ingredients that may cause reactions or interactions.
Bone stock may contain seafood or shellfish and sometimes dairy. Check the nutrition information if you have food sensitivities to ensure the stock is suitable for consumption.
In addition, bone broth contains amino acids and minerals that can interact with specific medications, particularly anticoagulants. Furthermore, homemade bone broth can present safety concerns due to the extended cooking process. Individuals who are expecting or nursing, young children, elderly individuals, and individuals with a compromised immune system may experience specific complications if the bone broth does not adhere to food safety guidelines.
If you are taking anticoagulant medication, planning to undergo a surgical procedure, or have a compromised immune system, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before consuming bone broth.
Bone broth undeniably offers a variety of beneficial nutrients, but by itself, it is not a complete meal nor a magical solution for optimal health. Nevertheless, bone broth can easily be integrated into a well-rounded, nourishing diet by making simple substitutions in your kitchen.
To save money on groceries, consider preparing your own bone broth (or making a double batch!) and storing half for future use. Alternatively, there are numerous reputable brands that offer high-quality bone broth in liquid or powder form that you may choose to purchase.